Liverpool's 2012-13 Season in 10 Pictures
As the 2012-13 season reaches its climax, it's time to take a look back over the past nine or 10 months to appreciate just where Liverpool Football Club's journey has taken them.
Billed as a season of transition and change, putting into place building blocks for the future and of changing the internal structure of the playing staff, it was always going to make for interesting and frustrating viewing for fans and outsiders alike.
Ups and downs don't even come close to describing the season the Reds have endured and enjoyed at times—but as ever, a little perspective goes a long way to assessing the season as a whole.
Here are 10 photos which detail the season for Liverpool.
A New Dawn: Brendan Rodgers Brought in as Manager
Liverpool broke with precedent in the summer to dispense with the services of legendary club man Kenny Dalglish. The Scot left after a sole full season in charge, where he won the League Cup, reached the FA Cup final and came seventh in the Premier League.
After a lengthy search over the summer, Swansea City's Brendan Rodgers was the man appointed to oversee club affairs at first-team level.
The Northern Irishman brought a wealth of coaching experience despite his lack of years, having been involved in the training side of the game from his early 20s.
Rodgers' attractive, passing-based attacking football was one of the reasons for his appointment, along with his preference for guiding through youngsters.
The Ups and Downs of the Transfer Window
Rodgers was straight into the thick of things after coming in as Liverpool boss; a host of players departed the club before or just after he arrived, and the manager only had limited time to reshape the squad as best as he could.
An anticipated change to 4-3-3 meant a bit of reshuffling was required, while goals had been hard to come by the previous season and so quality reinforcements in the final third were a must.
Joe Allen came in as Rodgers' marquee signing, the man who knew the system and had the quality to step up, and immediate signs were good that the move was the right call.
Out went Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy; the experienced attacking trio was replaced by the more youthful Fabio Borini, Oussama Assaidi and to a much lesser extent, Samed Yesil. A crowd of reserve and youth players also left, while Alberto Aquilani, Stephen Darby and Charlie Adam made permanent exits too.
Jay Spearing was sent on loan to Bolton Wanderers; Nuri Sahin came in from Real Madrid on a similar deal, and after a bit of a tussle over terms, Andy Carroll was allowed to depart for West Ham United until the end of the season.
Then came the question of his deadline day replacement.
Liverpool failed to convince Daniel Sturridge to join on loan and ended up refusing to pay an increased premium for Fulham's Clint Dempsey—who instead signed for Tottenham, just as Gylfi Sigurdsson had done earlier in the campaign.
The Reds were left with just Luis Suarez and new boy Borini as forwards, with the latter getting injured in just October.
A First League Win Under the New Boss
After a trying start to the season where Liverpool performed admirably against the champions but only drew, suffered disappointing defeats and failed to find the net often enough, their first win in the league under Brendan Rodgers came at Norwich City at the end of September.
It was their sixth league game, and they would go another seven domestic games afterwards without winning again.
For sure, the Reds had a difficult period at the beginning of the season, but the attack-minded football and patient, passing approach of the team kept fans on-side and supporting. That first win was a big pressure-relief though, with a Luis Suarez hat-trick being the centre-piece of the match.
Europa League Progression After Seeming to Have Thrown It Away
Away from domestic football, Rodgers was also guiding the club through his debut European season.
Initially utilising the Europa League as a competition to blood youngsters in, the side was changed dramatically as the group stage progressed, and the youngsters proved themselves capable of being in the regular league side.
Anzhi Makhachkala were beaten at home, Young Boys were beaten away, while Udinese turned the match around at Anfield to win, and Anzhi gained revenge on their own turf. Liverpool had the chance to seal progression to the knockout phase with a victory at home against Young Boys but conceded a late equaliser, meaning they required a win in Italy to make it through.
A resolute and determined display saw Liverpool triumph 1-0 in Udine thanks to a strike from Jordan Henderson, and the Reds were heading into the knockouts.
Christmas Fixtures Watchword: INCONSISTENCY
Liverpool headed into the month of December buoyed by a 1-0 home win over Southampton, and the run of fixtures ahead gave plenty of optimism that the Reds could put together a good run of form and make a push for the top four over the second half of the season.
Then the reality of the season struck, as the Reds embarked on five more league fixtures that made a mockery of any thoughts of being around the top few in the league in January.
A back-and-forth 3-2 win at West Ham was followed by a demoralising 3-1 defeat at home to lowly Aston Villa. The pre-Christmas fixtures came to an end with a 4-0 thumping of Fulham at home—before the Reds were again disappointingly hammered 3-1, this time in an away game at Stoke City.
To complete the month, and indeed the calendar year, Liverpool traveled to QPR—and got back on track with a 3-0 battering of the relegation candidates.
Four wins and two defeats wasn't the worst total for the month, but those inconsistent performances and failures to take expected wins, especially at home, were a sign that there was still much work to be done.
January Signings and the Arrival of Goals
And so into January, and the opening of the winter transfer window.
By now the entire world realised that Liverpool were in major need of attacking reinforcements, and Daniel Sturridge arrived shortly into the month from Chelsea. He hit the ground running, just as was needed, scoring three goals in three games.
A 5-0 defeat of Norwich City, in particular, gave rise to plenty of optimism once more, but defeats to Manchester United and, of most concern, Oldham Athletic intimated that there was still much more to improve upon.
Joe Cole and Nuri Sahin left the club, both high earners who were not providing enough quality or value to the squad, and toward the end of the window Inter Milan's young playmaker Philippe Coutinho arrived. He had little chance to make an impact in the first month—but it wasn't long before the entire Premier League knew about his quality.
Except Newcastle, apparently.
The January window could definitely be classed as a success for Liverpool and gave an indication of the level of quality the club would be looking for come the summer.
So Close to Another Night of European Glory vs. Zenit
Liverpool's history has not been built merely on extended and successful domestic championships, but on one-off nights of drama and emotion which are remembered for decades to come.
In February, an Anfield fixture against Zenit St. Petersburg promised to go down the same path—but ultimately ended in a tale of bitter disappointment, as Liverpool exited on away goals.
A 2-0 defeat in Russia in the first leg meant it was all uphill in the Europa League Round of 32 knockout stage, and when a slack Jamie Carragher back pass let Hulk in to make it 1-0 to Zenit, the Reds' hopes of qualification looked over.
A Luis Suarez free-kick and a close-range Joe Allen goal rekindled hope though—and Suarez's second free-kick of the evening, a wondrous, curling effort into the top corner, gave Kopites everywhere a very real belief that this would be "one of those nights."
It wasn't to be, as the tie ended 3-3, not quite enough for glory, and far too close to not be thoroughly distraught about.
Top Four Hopes Rekindled...and Swiftly Extinguished
The days before the Reds' Europa League adventure came to an end were dominated by one story: Jamie Carragher had decided to call it a day and retire at the end of the season with the second-highest ever Liverpool appearances total.
Carragher had been on the fringes of the first team for 14 months, but February and now, into March, saw him re-establish himself as a leader on the pitch. His return coincided with an upturn in form as the Reds sought to make a late charge for the top six or, with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, the top four.
Three league victories in a row boosted those hopes as Swansea (5-0 at home), Wigan (4-0 away) and most impressively Tottenham (3-2 at home) were put to the sword, with the latter side one of the key challengers to overtake en route to fourth. Following that run, only two places and seven points separated the Reds from fourth, and with a favourable-looking run-in, it was once more the subject of debate amongst fans whether fourth place was attainable.
Then Southampton welcomed Liverpool to St. Mary's and promptly spanked the Reds 3-1.
Any lingering thoughts of a stunning run to the Champions League places ended there and then, as reality bit for the final time.
Liverpool were in a slow, progressive season, but that kind of aim would have to wait for another year at least. Scoreless draws against West Ham and Reading showed good performances but proved hugely frustrating, as even sixth place looked to be slipping away.
Luis Suarez in Hot Water Again
And then came a game at Anfield against Chelsea.
In amongst the other news, a match actually took place that day. Chelsea scored; Luis Suarez set up Daniel Sturridge for an equaliser; Suarez gave away a penalty which Chelsea scored, and then Sturridge returned the favour for a Suarez equaliser in the fourth minute of injury time.
2-2 the result then.
Except, somewhere along the line, Suarez got it into his mind to take a bite of Branislav Ivanovic's arm, which caused predictable uproar with the game's media and authorities.
The end result was a 10-match suspension for the forward, which sees him miss the remainder of this campaign and six more next season, likely running up until the latter stages of September.
Some have criticised the length of the ban—some have criticised the suspension at all in relation to more serious, yet less-punished offences.
What is certain is that Suarez put the club and himself in that position, with very little defence, and now will miss another significant portion of match time.
Coming Together and the Routing of Newcastle United
With no Suarez in the lineup, Liverpool's attack was supposed to suffer dramatically as a result. Newcastle United were the first club in the way, with the Magpies battling against a relegation fight late on in the season.
It didn't quite happen that way, as Liverpool racked up their biggest victory of the season, spanking the Geordies 6-0 after a Philippe Coutinho-inspired performance, ably assisted by the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson.
Suarez's team-mates had spoken of their support for him prior to the match and the performance certainly showed that they should be able to cope perfectly fine in his absence.
Hopefully there is yet another chapter to write in Liverpool's season, preferably a derby-day victory this coming weekend which spirals into a late charge into sixth place, with plenty to build on for next season...